Research plays a crucial role in content creation and strategy. If content is king, research is probably the king’s backbone. Even a single written piece requires some level of insight, to make an impact and drive results.

This article offers an overview of key research focus areas for content writers. It introduces some of the ways research can help inform and guide an effective content strategy (and boost the impact of your content).

Most content writers incorporate at least some research methods into their writing process, formally or informally. If your go-to writing preparation strategy involves some basic keyword / topic research or checking out what is trending on social, this article may help inspire you to explore a bit deeper.

Let’s take a look at various research areas useful for content writers.

Key research focus areas for effective content writing – an overview

2 levels of research in content creation

There are two broad research components in content creation that can be classified as Groundwork research and dynamic feature selection. To be an effective asset, each written piece requires:

Groundwork research – the big picture

This is periodic “recon” work and helps us achieve:

  • a good understanding of the audience we are addressing
  • awareness of current trends
  • familiarity with topic, industry or market background
  • insight into true competition
  • any other underlying conditions, climate and dynamics within the market or field

These key insights will help inform our selection of focus areas and further guide:

Research into key dynamic features that drive content

Here the focus is on detail that content relies on to achieve visibility, reach and engagement, such as:

  • Topic research
  • Keyword and phrase research
  • Audience relation to the specific topic (e.g. their expressed interests, language, angle and tone)
  • Optimum scope of information to include and more.

Let’s look at some of these key research areas and explore how they are useful to content writers.

5 + 1 Key research focus areas in content writing

Here is a brief overview of the 5 (+1) key research focus areas used to inform and guide content creation, strategy and marketing efforts.

Audience research

Exploring and mapping audience demographics, behavior, interests and preferences helps content creators and marketers define key target audience and segments.

Audience research can help content writers: get to the bottom of who the audience are, their socio-cultural particulars; their demographics; but also what they are interested in; their shared characteristics; what drives their decisions and engagement and what their key concerns/pain-points/problems they need solved are.

Audience research can involve primary and secondary research, and includes methods such as: social listening, surveys, interviews, polls but also indirect research such as website metrics and SERP analysis, among others.

Competitive analysis

What are you up against and seeking to differentiate yourself from? Know your true competition (hint: in content writing you may find that true competition is often not only the usual suspect).

These could be directly competing brands, businesses, providers or merely those who tend to address the same topics and aims as you do. Your aim is to discover what works for them, what doesn’t and what their key selling points are. Explore your competition widely, not just your most obvious competitors: there is gold inside their search results, social media mentions, interactions, audiences, posts and blogs.

Get to know them, analyze, understand, compare and contrast. Knowing what you are up against will help you align, improve focus and discover opportunities including filling gaps they leave behind.

Market research (industry/category and other background conditions)

This scopes the area or field where you are competing with those said competitors. Understand the dynamics, trends, and background. See how you fit into the scheme of things and identify gaps and sub-categories or niches that are less competitive and that you might be able to fill.

In-depth background research is best performed at the start of planning a content strategy (for a series of pieces) and to identify the main focus areas that your content should or could feature.

For those of us writing content for a diverse set of markets/industries, this is normally an essential first step before attempting to “infiltrate” the market. Many content writers rush this part or rely on basic or poor quality info or data. The trick here is to get to the core of market or background dynamics and identify opportunities to work with for best results.

Topic research

The core of any successful content piece is probably topic research. It involves identifying topics, angles and perspectives that are relevant and of interest to your audience.

A carefully chosen topic that is both relevant and interesting is always better than a partial match or random topic, no matter what your content end goals are.

Keyword research

This is the key feature of SEO content writing and involves discovering keywords and phrases that are associated with your topic (or your overall field) among the audiences. SERPS are scanned meticulously, with or without help of specialized keyword research tools, in order to identify how people word their comments, queries and searches on the topic you are seeking to approach.

It is important because discoverability is key. The right keywords are crucial to your search engine visibility, ranking, discovery AND engagement by your key target audience and affiliates. A good mix of priority ranked keywords and phrases can ensure you optimize your reach within your target category and any sub-categories. This of course means – increase in rankings, traffic and engagement.

Keyword research can only do so much to get your content seen. The overall success of your content is heavily dependent on how well you are answering audience needs, preferences and filling market gaps left behind by competition. In other words, keywords alone are simply not enough without a solid backbone for your king! 🙂

Referencing, crediting and Fact-checking

You won’t get away without this one.

It takes a bit of extra effort to fact-check the points or claims raised in your content but it can’t be emphasized enough: Double-check your own work AND any work referenced for integrity and accuracy.

Unless you are writing content for a tabloid, avoid perpetuating misinformation – reading inaccurate content is a waste of everyone’s time and is a prime credibility-buster. Do list any original sources and pay it forward: give credit where credit is due.

Why research is important in content writing

Sometimes you may even manage solid results by striking some awesome resonance points on pure experience or intuition. However, without some level of research the success of our content is left to mere chance.

Precision helps save time, money and needless frustration when working out the best way to move forward with content for our business, website, blog, social media feed or project.

Solid research helps build quality content and this adds credibility to your work. It can have far-reaching implications, including earning you readers, achieving specific conversion goals, shares and even result in more backlinks to your work.

Does research take much time? Usually yes. Is it worth it? Try it for yourself. Try hitting goals and targets intuitively vs. making data-informed or data-driven choices and let me know what works best for you.

Looking for help or guidance with content research?

Just like writing, research is time-consuming, requires its own set of skills, tools and not everyone enjoys the process.

Feel free to contact me if you would like some assistance with research for your content plan or individual content writing task / assignment.

My main focus is assisting small business or project website owners build a more dynamic online presence, driven by relevant, unique SEO content, designed to help boost visibility, credibility, traffic and conversions.

About the author

Sandra H. is a content writer and editor, specializing in online web content, copy and on-page SEO.  She has 15+ years in Market Research, Marketing & Communications and is a certified Digital Marketing Professional.

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